What Would You Do if There Was No Government?

Paul Hebert Leadership, Organizational Development, Paul Hebert, Seat at the Table, Trench HR

One of the thought exercises I like to do with clients when trying to get to new ideas and new ways of solving problems is to eliminate the focus they currently have and see what happens.

As an example, in the incentive industry, most companies get paid based on the value of the awards they sell.  Sell more awards, make more money.  That’s their focus.  They spend little time outside that box, and any time they do spend outside that box is designed to help them sell more awards.  So to find out what other value they can bring to the table, I’ll ask… “what if they made it illegal to reward employees?  What would you do?  How would you pivot (to use a new-age, silicon valley term) to make money?  What would you do each day to make money?”

Enter blank faces, crickets and tumbleweeds.  No answer.  Most of my clients have never considered what they would do if they couldn’t do what they’re currently doing.

But it is a fun way (fun for me really) to get you thinking outside your comfort zone and refocus on what additional benefit you can provide.

I’m convinced that too often when we constantly focus on what we currently do we can’t see what we COULD do – or what we SHOULD do.

What if There Were No Employee Laws

My experience with HR is that they exist, for the most part, to ensure a company is in alignment with government and legal issues.  They are, as I’ve said, and many others, there to reduce the risk associated with having employees.

No employees no risk.  No employees no need for HR.

But we can also say – no government, no laws, no HR.

So ask yourself – what would you say to your boss to keep your job if tomorrow the government said – No Compliance Needed – Knock yourself out.

Weird huh?  For a bunch of you, it will be scary.  You can’t think of what you’d do each day when you came to work without the blanket of security the government provides.  But what if you didn’t have to do what you do now?

What would HR do in an organization where employee risk is zero?

If You Eliminate the Downside Risk You Must Look for Upside Opportunity

Here’s where I would spend my time….

  1.  Focus on recruiting.  HR would need to be the scouting arm for the organization. You’re player identification and you’d probably spend more time finding out who’s who in the industry.  You’d probably also worry more about the future of the company and making sure you’re building the right talent for tomorrow.  Talent would take on a much more important role in your life I’d bet.  This would go from No. 6 on your to do list to #1 I’d guess.
  2. Focus on training managers.  If you’re busting ass to get the best possible people into the company, you don’t want to see that asset burned out by a bad manager.  You know that people leave managers not companies, so all the work that went into getting that “A” player can disappear in an instant with a bad manager.  You’d probably work real hard making sure all your managers understood human behavior, human needs, human value.  You’d train the crap out of them to protect and manage the assets you uncovered and brought to the table.
  3. You’d look for ways to make whatever talent you had in the organization more productive.  That’s right… you’d become the tech geek in the organization looking for the best and newest ways to get stuff done with less money and less time.  Since you’re not worried about paperwork you’d have to be worried about the return on the talent you have brought in and trained your managers to develop and grow.  You’d want to know about the newest mobile apps, the newest system that enables knowledge sharing, the newest enterprise communication tools.  In other words you’re gonna have to get on twitter, linkedin and god forbid pinterest.  Yeah – you’re gonna have to learn geek.  Don’t worry – it’s kinda fun in a way.

What would you change tomorrow if you could eliminate the work spent on the downside risk and focused on the upside potential?

I’m not naïve enough to think you can eliminate the need for managing compliance, but I’m convinced unless you start to think about your life without it, you can’t focus on what can really add value to the organization long-term.

Take a few minutes and see what your list would look like if you knew tomorrow they didn’t need you for 90% of what you do.

And, for those of you who already spend 90% of your time on the upside – congrats… help the rest of us out here with suggestions on how the rest of us can shake off the coil of compliance.